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KORANIC LAWS PERTAINING TO WATER, LAND AND AGRICULTURE PRACTICES S a n f o r d H . B e d e r m a n Georgia State College The Koran, a religious doctrine as well as a legal code, has exerted infinite influence on the people who have accepted it as their way of life. The life cycle of a Muslim is guided in one way or another by the direct sayings of the Koran or the subsequent traditions or Hadiths which evolved to delineate further vague statements made by Muhammed or his immediate successors. The Koran and the Hadiths (which together form the Shari’a tell primarily how Allah should be worshipped, so that the believer might prepare himself for paradise. For this same reason, rules on civil and social activities such as marriage, divorce, property, inheritance, trusts (waqfs), crime and justice are also rigidly presented. The Shari’a also contains specifics on how agricultural practices and uses of land and water should be carried on. The purpose of this paper is to examine these practices in the light of Koranic law; for the utilization of land and water forms the most important bridge between the Muslim and his environment, and Islamic law is a profound acknowledgment of the need to regulate these relationships. This study would be difficult and bulky if it were to try to show the changes in attitude towrnrd and use of Koranic laws that have taken place through time and space within the Muslin World since the Hejira. Also, it would be meaningless to write about Islamic economic laws without describing the geographic habitat in which those laws were first formulated. Muhammed was interested in Arabs and Arabia. Many of his laws proved to be inapplicable in lands that were later conquered. This paper is concerned mostly with the laws as they apply to Arabia. Areas outside Arabia will not be ignored, but will be mentioned only as they illustrate the difficulties encountered in applying laws formulated for one culture to people of different cultures. In some cases though, the assimilation by foreign countries was easily carried out. Geographic Description and Human Ecology of the Land Known to Muhammed The land of Islam has often been considered synonymous with the arid and semi-arid regions of North Africa and Asia. This certainly is a wide generalization; nevertheless, “arid” is a most important adjective in describing the land on which most Muslims live and is definitely a 9 causal factor of the problem under study. Aridity, among other things, implies a meager supply of water and a lack of perennial streams. Ac­ cording to this definition, all of the Arabian Peninsula, except parts of the Yemen and Oman highlands, is located in an arid region. About one-half of the area is desert both in terms of climate and vegetation. The rest is semi-arid steppe which is most useful economically toward the western highlands bordering the Red Sea. There is no evidence that the climate of Muhammed’s day was any different from what is found today. The most noteworthy sources of water are from infrequent oases which are areas where the water table has been exposed or is close enough to the surface so that wells can be dug. As Islam spread, areas with other sources of water were annexed, such as the lands that were fortunate enough to have perennial rivers flowing through them. These ‘‘exotic” rivers include the Nile, Euphrates, Amu, Syr, and the Indus. Other sources are intermittent streams {wadis) which are dry most of the time. Most bodies of standing water in this region are salty and are therefore of little or no use as sources of water for man. In Arabia, as well as other places in the Near East, settlement location was influenced in large part by the availability of water, and since agriculture was the dominant economic activity in such dry surroundings, it could not have been carried on unless water was available for irrigation purposes. As there are no rivers in the Arabian Desert, the only water supply was from wells. For centuries, water was lifted from the wells in goatskin water bags. Seemingly, this...


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